History of the Apple Logo

Hey guys it’s Greg with Apple Explained, and today we’re going to explore how the

Apple logo went from this complicated illustration in 1976 to the iconic symbol we know and love

today. This topic won last week’s voting poll and if you didn’t get to vote, make

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Now, Apple is arguably the most iconic brand in history and their logo is universally recognizable.

It’s simplicity and straightforward aesthetic makes this a timeless symbol to represent

the most valuable company in the world. But the Apple logo hasn’t always looked this

way. In fact, you may not recognize their logo from 1976. To be honest, it looked more

like an illustration. Now you may be wondering what the heck Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak

were thinking when creating this logo. But you’d be asking the wrong people, since

it was Ron Wayne, Apple’s third co-founder, who made this drawing. It was created with

India ink and featured Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree reading a book. A fabric

banner surrounded the image that said “Apple Computer Co.” but there was more text featured

on the picture’s frame. If you look closely, you just might be able to make it out: “Newton...

‘A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought... Alone.’” The quote

is from the romantic English poet William Wordsworth, who in “The Prelude, Book Third:

Residence of Cambridge” wrote:

And from my pillow, looking forth by light Of moon or favoring stars, I could behold

The antechapel where the statue stood Of Newton with his prism and silent face,

The marble index of a mind for ever Voyaging through strange seas of Thought,


Now this logo clearly had some artistic value, but as you can imagine, Steve Jobs wasn’t

a fan. He argued that Apple should have a more stylish logo and thought this logo could

be part of the reason for the Apple 1’s slow sales. And he may have been right. The

illustrated logo was too intellectual for a technology company and it was simply too

complicated to reproduce on computers or in small sizes. Jobs then asked Rob Janoff to

design a new logo. Janoff was the art director of Regis McKenna Advertising who had helped

Compaq, America Online, and Intel develop brand identities in their early years. Steve

knew the Apple II was going to be launched on April 17th 1977 at West Coast Computer

Fair, and he wanted Apple to have a fresh, modern look.

Rob Janoff started with a silhouette of a black apple on a white background, but felt

that something was missing. A play on words that Apple had previously used in advertising

for the Apple I may have helped Janoff get the idea that a bite should be taken out of

the apple. But Janoff said he included the bite “for scale, so people understood that

it was an apple and not a cherry. But Bill Kelley, who also worked for Regis McKenna

Advertising, remembered the story a bit differently. He said that the bite was symbolic of acquiring

knowledge, a biblical reference to eve eating from the tree of knowledge.

Janoff then added colored stripes to the apple logo because of the Apple II’s impressive

color capabilities, and Steve Jobs himself specified many of the hues that were include.

And this Apple logo was in fact used at the Apple II’s launch in April 1997. But there

was a big problem with this colorful version of the Apple logo… It was very complicated

to print. You see, printing colored strips side by side has to be done in separate steps.

And if just one strip is misplaced, it will overlap with the other colors and have to

be redone. This meant printing the Apple logo was an expensive process. Janoff suggested

that the colored stripes be separated by thin black lines, which would make printing much

cheaper. But Steve Jobs spared no expense and demanded that the logo should remain as

it was.

The Director of European Operations at Apple Computer had this to say about the legendary

Apple logo: “One of the deep mysteries to me is our logo, the symbol of lust and knowledge,

bitten into, all crossed with the colors of the rainbow in the wrong order. You couldn’t

dream of a more appropriate logo: lust, knowledge, hope, and anarchy.”

Now although the Apple logo had been developed, the Apple type still underwent some changes

back in those days. At first, the Apple logo was accompanied by the text “apple computer

inc.” in the Motter Tektura typeface which was designed by Otmer Motter in 1975 and was

quite new when Apple started using it. Over the years, Apple made some changes to the

logotype to make it a little more stylish in advertising. In the early 80’s they shortened

“Apple Computer Inc.” to “Apple”, as you can see in this advertisement for the


In 1984, just in time for the original Macintosh introduction, Apple dropped the Motter Tektura

typeface and replaced it with the more sophisticated Garamond. But Apple actually had their own

custom version of the typeface called Apple Garamond. This was also when Apple began featuring

their logo by itself, although they usually included their slogan “think different”

in advertising and printed materials.

Apple’s rainbow logo remained unchanged during Steve Jobs’ absence from the company,

but the typography was updated from Apple Garamond to Gill Sans. And Jobs made another

mark on the Apple logo when he returned in 1997. Because for the first time, Apple featured

a solid white logo on the Powerbook G3 lid, and its box featured solid black and white

Apple logos. Now, the operating system, Mac OS 8, still used the rainbow logo but this

changed in 2001 with the introduction of Mac OS X.

Now, as this monochrome logo began being used on the lid of Apple’s PowerBooks and iBooks,

a design issue arose. Which way should the Apple logo face? The answer may seem obvious

today, but it wasn’t so clear in the late 90’s. There was a time when Apple logos

were actually upside down on the lid of their notebooks, Joe Moreno, a former Apple employee,

explained it this way:

“About a dozen years ago we had some discussions at Apple about the placement of the logo on

the back of Apple’s laptops. Apple has an internal system called Can We Talk? where

any employee can raise questions on most any subject. So we asked, ‘Why is the Apple

logo upside down on laptops when the lid is open?’”

And the answer? Because Steve Jobs wanted it that way. He wanted to make sure that when

a user sat down in front of their closed notebook, the Apple logo was facing towards them; he

didn’t care how it appeared to an onlooker. Jobs believed this was an important detail

because his design group noticed that users constantly tried to open the laptop from the

wrong end. And Jobs always focused on providing the best possible user experience and believed

that it was more important to satisfy the users needs rather than the onlookers.

But just a few years later, Steve reversed his decision and turned the Apple logo around.

Moreno concluded that “opening a laptop from the wrong end is a self-correcting problem

that only lasts for a few seconds. However, viewing the upside logo is a problem that

lasts indefinitely.”

Ken Segall, who worked closely with Jobs on advertising, summed up the issue quite well.

He said, “Which was more important — to make the

logo look right to the owner before the PowerBook was opened, or to have it look right to the

rest of the world when the machine was in use?

Look around today and the answer is pretty obvious. Every laptop on earth has a logo

that’s right-side up when the machine is opened. Back then, it wasn’t so obvious,

probably because laptops were not yet ubiquitous. Looking back, it borders on the unbelievable

that something so wrong could ever have seemed right. That Steve Jobs ever wrestled with

this decision only proves one thing: being right in retrospect is much easier than being

right in real time.”

Now, shortly after the switch to their monochrome Apple logo, things started to get a bit colorful

with the Bondi Blue iMac in 1998. The logo appeared embossed in a translucent blue veneer

that resembled its appearance on the iMac. And this design was carried through to the

fruit-colored iMacs the following year. Now this time period was a bit awkward for the

Apple logo. It appeared monochrome on Apple’s PowerBook, but was stylized with color and

translucence on the iMac and iBook. And the operating system was still using the rainbow

Apple logo which was beginning to look outdated.

But these inconsistencies were straightened out in 2001 with the release of Mac OS X.

Its aqua interface meant Apple had to design a new logo to match, and that started the

aqua Apple logo era. The typography was also revised two years later from Gill Sans to

Myriad. But I should mention that Apple didn’t use their aqua logo in every case. For example,

products like the iPod and Mac mini used Apple’s monochrome logo in addition to printed materials

like brochures and even software packaging. Apple’s website didn’t even feature their

aqua-style logo. So there was often a tug-of-war between the flashy aqua logo and the flat

monochrome logo until Apple made an effort to streamline these two styles.

They accomplished this by creating the new chrome logo in 2007 which they used on their

website, in advertisements, during iOS startup and shut down, in Mac OS X’s About This

Mac window, and in printed material. Although this wasn’t the only style of logo Apple

used during this time, it was a step forward in making their logo appear more uniform across

different platforms and materials.

Now in 2013 Apple's design language began to shift from three dimensional to two dimensional,

and this meant a much flatter logo. Apple essentially went back to using their monochrome

logo from the late 90s. And this meant no matter where you saw an Apple logo, it would

look exactly the same. No stylization, no embellishments, just a flat logo that looked

the same, from the MacBook Pro’s lid to the iPhone’s manual to the Apple Store.

This change marked a true unification of the Apple logo’s design. I should also add that

Apple’s signature typography was updated in 2015 with the release of the Apple Watch.

It used Apple’s new San Francisco typeface which eventually replaced Myriad on all Apple’s

operating systems and printed materials.

Now I think the most recent Apple logo design is the absolute best. After all, it looks

as good today as it did in the 90s and I don’t think Apple will be changing it anytime soon.

But what do you think? Should Apple change their logo? Maybe they could go back to one

of their previous designs. Let me know what you think in the comments. And if you want

to vote for the next video topic, don’t forget to subscribe. Thanks for watching,

and I’ll see you next time.